January 2019, Vol. 246, No. 1


Future Policy Implications and Response to ‘Big Green’ Advocacy



By David Holt, Managing Partner, HBW Resources 

Despite the critical importance of energy to every American family and business, the debate surrounding America’s abundant natural resources has become increasingly polarized over the past decade. Protests and shouting matches have replaced the pursuit of balanced, non-partisan policy solutions.

Anti-energy groups including heavily funded Big Green organizations have increasingly used intimidation tactics and teaming up with fringe social justice movements to impose an anti-fossil energy agenda upon policymakers. These organizations often pose as local community activists proffering less-than-factual emotional arguments to garner support.

While we all strongly support continued environmental protection, it is imperative to recognize that our society is completely dependent on affordable and reliable energy. Therefore, it is critical that we strike the proper balance between ongoing environmental progress and energy development – without sacrificing the progress we have made or harming families, the environment or our future.  We can and must have both – a clean environment and access to energy.

Why then do some of these Big Green organizations continue to aggressively call for an immediate end to energy development – without offering real energy solutions?  It makes no sense, unless it is viewed purely as a political ploy.  After all, a moderate middle group that strives to put the U.S. as the world leader in environmental protection and energy production is in the best interest of all of us – regardless of political affiliation or socio-economic background.

Yet, that’s not what we are seeing in our public discussions about energy.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2016 Americans spent $3,200 per person on energy expenses. With the average worker making $49,000 per year, this is often the determining factor for a family that may forgo heat or air conditioning for a month or more in place of another bill. For those living at or below the poverty line, $3,200 per year translates to over one-quarter of their monthly living expenses.
Therefore, it is important that we have access to our nation’s abundant and affordable energy so that all American families and small businesses can fuel their lives and their businesses.

Low income families and individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck suffer the brunt of these negative effects, often having to decide if everyday amenities, such as heat and A/C. For many of us, it is difficult to even imagine eliminating these luxuries from our lives, but the choice isn’t always available to everyone. Pro-energy advocacy efforts across the nation ensure that federal, state and local decision-makers hear these messages from individuals, families and businesses that are affected by high energy costs.

Big Green activists also refuse to acknowledge that rigorous environmental standards and energy production can and do exist. From 2000 to 2017, nationwide emissions of key pollutants have decreased across the board:

  • 52% decrease in nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • 83% decrease in sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • 19% decrease in volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • 37% reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5)

Additionally, since 2005 the U.S. power sector has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 28%. In December 2017, the oil and gas industry announced its Environmental Partnership to further reduce emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds. These improvements are occurring at a time when our country has catapulted forward to become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas.

There is so much inflammatory rhetoric swirling on social media and in the news that it is hard to understand just what to think about energy. Between activists’ bully tactics, regulatory debates, economic implications and constantly increasing energy demand – what are people supposed to think? For this reason, it is important that the non-partisan energy narrative be reclaimed so that all members of our communities can be heard.

How can we ensure decision-makers develop sound policy that balances both responsible environmental stewardship while also meeting the energy needs of Americans across the country?

It all starts with a less bombastic discussion.  We must find a way to bring greater energy and environmental awareness to our political leaders and their communities.  For example, most Americans do not realize – based on the current social media narrative – that pipelines are better for the environment than alternative ways to transport energy.  Why then, are a few groups so actively and aggressively protesting pipelines, and attempting to present a clearly false narrative?

Oil and natural gas producers also face increased challenges including access to acreage, delayed permitting, redundant regulations, lack of agency coordination and public opposition. Access to domestic energy resources is critical to continued U.S. economic growth and prosperity. 

However, this development is under threat from multiple fronts. Radical activists work every step of the production process to thwart development or increase costs.  They attack lending institutions, push local ordinances opposing oil and gas development, seek out local and state ballot measures to either ban or limit development, advocate for local moratoria and community bills of rights to establish bans on oil and gas production and pursue litigation to add costs and delay projects.  All these roadblocks hinder domestic energy production and can significantly impact our economy.

The real problem here is twofold:  1) Big Green organizers advancing anti-energy measures fail to discuss the economic impacts, especially on those who cannot afford to pay more for electricity or fuel, and 2) radical anti-energy groups have never offered an actual real-world solution to meet our growing energy needs.
State and local leaders must embrace the importance of energy to their constituents and their economies and refuse to be subjected to the bullying tactics of these anti-development groups. For example, without adequate pipeline infrastructure, producers are unable to move critical energy resources to our cities and homes, creating unnecessary bottlenecks and price increases when demand can’t be met. Pipelines not only provide a safe and reliable way for energy to be transported, they’re also more environmentally friendly than other modes of transport by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Just look what happened to the New England states last winter when record cold temperatures required a significant increase in the need for natural gas to heat homes.  Due to the lack of sufficient pipeline infrastructure – directly caused by poorly-conceived legislative efforts in a few northeast states – natural gas supplies were simply not available.  This caused New England families and small businesses to have to spend an additional $2 billion due to supply-related price spikes during a three-week period. Adding insult to injury, the region was forced to import natural gas from Russia to meet basic demand.

This should never happen in the United States.  And it doesn’t need to.

No longer are we solely relying on oil and gas to power our lives. We now have additional sources of renewable energy, which are nearing parity to become a truly competitive alternative. Advances in these renewables offer opportunities which were once seen as unattainable but are now being proposed and permitted from coast-to-coast.

Unfortunately, the same anti-development groups are protesting these energy types as well with similar setback orders and moratoria that apply to oil and gas production.

Several local and state ballot races faced increased polarity during the lead up to the 2018 midterm election.

It is time to refrain from the “no” argument of the anti-development groups and start working toward nonpartisan solutions.  Only when we educate ourselves, our communities and our policymakers about the importance of energy in our everyday lives will people understand that we can’t do anything in a vacuum. We must come together for sound, solution-based policies that keep American homes and vehicles powered.  Together, we can we create solutions that promote access to affordable energy resources and environmental sustainability – because the two can and do coexist. P&GJ

Author: David Holt is managing partner of energy consultancy HBW Resources and has over 25 years of experience working for state and federal agencies, as well as Congress.

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